Territorial Art, Design & Architecture – a transfiguration of spatial and  environmental artistic practices to encounter with global warming

 

This is an ongoing collaborative artistic research project exploring how the striking change of circumstances caused by global warming offers artistic fields the possibility to remediate mutual relationships with non-human worlds. The research project looks here by to allocate its meanings through a series of collaborative hands-on processes of installing inhabitations that work as interfaces for the study of, and engagement with rural ecologies as public spaces of communality and sense of togetherness (Avila 2020). Inspired by the World of Matter project, the experimental processes of installations are efforts to territorialize processes into places intertwined with institutions, academic disciplines, and non-academic fields as well as combining the areas of art, design and architectural research, spatial and environmental politics, and visual culture. With this approach, the objective is to present other types of spatial and environmental processes that inform and transverse artistic disciplines with rural sites where biodiversity is at stake. The goal is to advance knowledge on how to propose projects not only focusing on developing ‘attractive public spaces’ for citizens and visitors but rather transfigured into spaces of mutual ecological relationships between urban and rural, human and non-human worlds.

 

In times of advanced capitalism de-territorialized differences are produced for the sake of commodification (Braidotti 2013). Instead, Territorial Art, Design and Architecture explores how to influence artistic processes through territorialized diversities, commons, scales, and speeds taking place in the rural. The point of departures are the species, activities, practices, productions, cultures, and systems that have become invisible in urban areas and the lack of rural representation and ecological perspectives in art, design, and architectural disciplines. The research activities focus on communal spaces and inhabitation in places and environments where fields concerned with productivity intersect with ecologies in rural sites, that is to sites with minimal human intervention and categorized as the opposite to urban. The objective is not to create further divisions, thus proposing that one is better than the other, but rather an effort to investigate knowledge gaps produced by such historical divisions and caused by anthropogenic thinking fostered in urban areas. Each project presented in this exposition is a research activity that unfolds as part of an interdisciplinary practice developed through communal inclusion and study groups of academic disciplines and non-academic fields. Each research activity is an effort to designate my own role as an architect and researcher planning collaborative process-based research strategies that evolve around oppositional narratives with the common goal of transfiguring anthropocentric narratives of division fostered in urban areas and causing global warming and loss of biodiversity.

Introduction

Places, environments, and spaces are important concepts in art, design, and architecture. In the anthropocentric narratives these concepts are increasingly limited by urban norms rooted in ideas of modernity which are linear trajectories, rather than relational and ecological (Massey 2005). These postures dominate projections of human relations to nature, landscapes, territories, and the planet. Designed environments are transformed into commercialized opportunities and cultivate a false idea of endless resources fostered by power relations that gives urban areas preferential right of interpretation. In this research these postures are questioned arguing that these are not part of natural processes but rather conscious profound structural constructions (Smith & Sparkes, 2009). In other words, structural constructions that overtime become narratives fostered in urban areas with clear agendas composed by a series of human centered and colonial mechanism whose objective is maintaining hierarchies, that only, benefit capitalistic and anthropogenic interests. These urban narratives picture modern man as above and separate from the wild and consequently urbanity distanced altogether from all that is perceived as periphery and sparsely populated and most resent extreme narratives depicturing rural death. Today, when the largest proportion of people are centered in cities, these narratives become dominant as a collective conscience whose urban perspective sets the agenda socially, culturally, and politically. A collective conscience whose urban self-image understands itself as separate and in denial of natural dependent relationship that is inevitable between urban and rural, center and periphery, culture and nature. In that detachment and denial arise urban ecologies, an urban imagined center, hierarchy, and seclusion whose systems are linear and dependent on infinite resources from a considered outside for their existence. Altogether, a structural construction detached from planetary limits and therefore operating based on the false notion that everything peripheral is at service for the center and under the illusion of infinite resources in service of modern man.

Artistic Processes

As artists, designers, and architects we are trained to commend on anthropogenic processes closely related with the last two hundred years of densification into urban regions. Urban regions and cities become early in the education and later in the profession the point of reference for artistic processes, in everything from desires, to success, development, creativity, modernity and today, sustainability. So, when I was invited early in my profession to teach in environmental sustainability in Shanghai and work together with a team of architects developing a concept for a new city in China, I was of course mesmerized and became quickly magnetized by mega cities. I was convinced that densification into what is referred to as green and sustainable cities was the key to fight against global warming, love story that slowly faded away after spending quite some time in Shanghai. I became more aware of the negative impact made by processes focusing solely on rapidly growing cities and economic growth. Urbanization at this speed and scale had consequences way beyond the city limits causing damage on communities and species, resulting in depopulation of rural areas and exploitation causing loss of biodiversity. I began perceiving that something was contractionary in the equation that comes along with processes arguing for densification into growing cities and “green building”. I realized that as an architect I was in the fore front of a toxic trajectory limiting my possibilities to take responsibility for my own actions as I was stuck in the hand of a discipline stagnated in urban processes reliant on the same actions causing global warming in the first place. I lost my trust in architecture and begin question my own role and abilities as an intellectual, academic, and urban middle-class cosmopolitan. I was equipped with theory and rational drawing skills, but nonexperience from social or ecological knowledge attaching itself to real territories of existence (Guattari, 1989), I was a de-territorialized individual. With other words, completely detached from any fundamental forms of inhabitation with real territories of existence, meaning the subjectivity in planting a seed in the soil or felling a tree to make timber and build a home, accountable for the consequences of such action. I felt that without practicing these fundamental forms of attachment to real territories of existence, I was stuck in abstract objective concepts of time and making without any knowledge about the real speeds and efforts of how life perform, and therefore completely detached from planetary limits. My only efforts so far were making architecture for the sake of commodification, producing more of the same a little bit greener, or a little bit more social. It was during this identity crisis that I decided to redirect my interest in the fields of art, design and architecture and embark on a journey in search of processes of making as far from urban norms as possible. I began training myself as an architect not solely depending on knowledge composed in the conventional studio space and computer. Instead, I began making research on existing social and environmentalist practices in peripheries and rural to gain social and ecological experience attached to real territories of existence. This became my way of challenging what later became known to me as anthropocentric world views, surely limiting my perspectives. Ever since I have pursued a practice-based research practice dependent on building relationships with territories together with organizations, and academic and non-academic fields and practitioners, taking on the role as a long-term collaborator or as member rather than an architect. In this way I stepped into a professional metamorphosis expanding my discipline with artistic processes that unfold from; (i) projects that emerge actively rather than assigned passively in search for long term relations with territorialized transformative initiatives, (ii) projects that manifest relational rather than linear in search for mutual beneficial territorialized social and ecological conditions, (iii) projects that grow collecting rural oppositional rather than urban commodification stories in search for narratives that present more kinship forms of inhabitation with the planet.

 

With these path experiences, I was presented with the opportunity to pursue artistic research as senior lecturer at Konstfack University of Art, Craft and Design. I took the opportunity to transform the last ten years of professional metamorphosis into an artistic research project based on my most recent collaborations that I present in this exposition. Interesting enough the opportunity to present Territorial Art, Design & Architecture in Shanghai came across right at the start of this endeavor. I was invited to hold a one-week workshop for art, design, and architecture students ten years after what led to a turning point in my profession. I was back where it started only this time with many new experiences and perspectives to share. Together we decided to investigate the territorial identity of a suburban area of Shanghai in a territory just in the border of the cities ongoing expansion towards the rural. Together we collected stories about social practices active in this territory in opposition to the rapid expansion of urban processes. We came across a group of former farmers that used to inhabitate and cultivate this land and still doing so after being displaced by force into high rise condominium areas of the city without any cultivation possibilities. In opposition to the future development plans and maintain their identity as cultivators on this territory this group of people had decided to continue cultivating this land even if it meant commuting every day while some remain refusing to live their homes. Since the students came from different art disciplines, they were mixed into interdisciplinary groups encourage to transverse their tools choosing freely how to collect stories. They spend their time with the group of people working the land without any historical background to the site specifics. Instead, it was the stories they found spending time in this rural territory that became the process and the process outcome.

Opposinial Narratives

Based on the process with students in Shanghai and my path ten years interest in collecting stories in opposition to urban norm, I came across oppositional narratives, or counter-narratives (Delgado 1989; 1995).  I realized that the kind of processes I have been exploring could operate as strategical methods of renegotiation to make alternatives to the urban-dominated norms visible. I understood that urban centered processes and norms influenced by anthropogenic thinking in current power structures are given preferential right of interpretation becoming consensus narratives that to a greater extent sets the agenda for how politics and institutions agree to solve the challenges of global warming. I began investigating the urban frame as knowledge constrained to divisional thinking rather than relational arguing that it must produce an immense gap of knowledges. As a direct result of such processes certain narratives become overrepresented in academia and in the media which for a long time have been constraining the climate crisis discourse referring majorly to urban development. The research activities I present are therefore efforts that seeks narratives in opposition to conceptual limitations rendering the climate crisis as an urban issue that can only be solved with more of the same. In that sense it is a method to translocate artistic processes in search for other perspectives, knowledges, and projects beyond visions of sustainability biased to perspectives based on urban narratives such as "Green transition". Reason why the main objective of the projects I present is to step out of a sort of urban bubble and enter processes of unlearning, learning, and relearning. Not as way to argue that urbanity is completely wrong but rather showing that it has become a frame of limitations for artistic disciplines if we ought to encounter with the global challenges of global warming. Arguing that if artistic disciplines get involved in processes that step out of an urban constraining frame, trajectories of division which are causing relational conflict will become visible from the outside. Artistic processes can have a major role in visualizing these social and ecological oppositional narratives that arise in divisional gaps between urban and rural, center and periphery, culture, and nature. As these oppositional narratives become visible, we can learn from other forms of inhabitation and collectively start understanding possible reconfigurations of urbanity and artistic disciplines to begin drifting away from the climate crisis.

 

 

Metamorphosing

After my professional time as architect in Shanghai I returned to Sweden with the objective to transform my practice and explore how the discipline could take off in other directions. It was 2012 and I began spending time with Gulliga, a non-profit association of activists making a communal effort to apply permaculture as a way of making social impact reviving an abandoned former piece of rural land surrounded by neighborhoods considered peripheral to Stockholm. This are district with high percentage of first- and second-generation Swedish citizens with different ethnic background and often experts’ cultivators as they came from territories where cultivating was part of their everyday activities. As this was now land owned by the municipality which didn’t support their action, the association were constantly threatened with eviction. It was in this challenge that I met with other artist engaged in this struggle among them Erik Sjödin founder of Gememskapspraktik, and Fernando Garcia Dory founder of the arts collective Inland. We began collaborating with Gulliga assisting with strategies based on artistic processes and interventions to make their efforts visible. In the very end we were evicted from this land, but friendships and collaborations survived. Today I continue collaborating with the association in another location as well as with Erik and Fernando and others involved. The experience led me to find my way back into the academia and finally begin transfiguring my practice one step at the time. The first step was realizing that projects could emerge if I am actively involved building relation to people in their struggle and could mean negotiating with my role as architect, even if it meant unlearning the ways in which I was thought to layout a project.

 

The friendship with Fernando led me eventually to become a member of Inland in 2015. As member of the collective I took on the role as a space builder, pedagogue, and researcher. Simultaneously I began searching for collaborative endeavors to experiment with how the artistic processes could be exercised to compose and produce knowledge about rural inhabitations that address present-day issues of living together and living more ecologically. The objective has been presenting to a broader public that we cannot solely depend on urban narratives and the idea of rural death with centralization, and densification as the only point of reference for sustainable ways of inhabitation. The collaborations I got involved with resulted in experiences revealing a different kind of artistic processes that I began applying as a form of practice-based research activities that I explored in my teaching practice. I began relocating learning environments to real territories of existence. Which meant becoming active in how we acquire experiences that we translate into knowledge as part of an artistic process. I began planning my courses in rural and peripheral territories where I already had established a collaboration with environmental associations, movements, institutions, or community of practitioners, in the middle of a social and ecological transformative struggle. Today could refer to this strategy as metamorphosing my practice that I have formalized into a method which consist in three parallel trajectories that inform each other continuously to unlearn, learn and relearn as the project unfold as we, (1) spend time collecting stories and share experiences attaching artistic disciplines to a real territory of existence, (2) compose knowledge in close collaboration with academic and non-academic disciplines relevant for the territory, (3) translate the stories and the knowledge produced into narratives that manifest ideas situated and affordable enough to be built with minimal negative impact on the territory and the planet.


The projects I present in the following sections are efforts to exemplify how I pursue artistic research with the objective to explore what has been mentioned so far as part of exploring artistic processes. In each project I do my best to account for strategies, professional role, methods and objectives as well as discourses emerged from the process and outcome. Finally, in the last section I reflect how continuing off springs from this kind of research activities combine and produce knowledge about artistic processes that engage with a transfiguration of spatial and environmental practices to encounter with global warming.

The Political Beekeeper's Library by artist Erik Sjödin

Presentation of the project together with students at Inland Car

Urban & Rural

The history of the word urban goes back to 1820 and contains values and power relations created in times of industrialization when migration started from the countryside to the city. Urban was applied to communicate what is civilized, modern and cultivated - created to describe the life in the city as opposite to life elsewhere as, barbaric, primitive, and uncivilized, in short rural. Through my research I argue that this two-hundred-year division by western culture has resulted in a complete disassociation from ecological systems no longer visible in growing urban areas. Urban norms are given preferential right of interpretation and we are misled to believe that the only way to achieve sustainability is more of the same but more modern, with more technology and more resources used for the development of urban densification into the extreme of megacities. This is a well-established agenda by scholars and scientists, most recently by the environmental philosophy of ecomodernist manifesto that resonates with a long history of this kind of proposals, arguing that the only way to decrease environmental impact on the planet, is if human beings are detached from the rural through massive and rapid urbanization, process already in movement. This leads me to the question driving my research activities; what multiple alternative forms of inhabitation, societies, technologies and cultures that unfold in sustainable ways are we missing to explore with such agenda and what have we lost and will continue losing along the gap created by this current division between urban and rural.


Many little Hands Apiaries process is an effort to offer art, design, and architectural processes a chance to reflect on its own meaning in a different frame than the urban to take some first steps addressing these questions. The work is therefore an effort to think about new monuments to encounter with global warming searching for clues to these questions. I hope that this kind of proposals can operate like interfaces that could spread around the planet in multiple ways, made up by simple constructions, all assembled with the use of minimal resources.  It’s a sort of oppositional narrative with one purpose, inspiring to inhabitation activities in better relationship with the biosphere and to reflect on relationships lost. For this action we chose the Iberian bees as they can give us many little clues about lost relationships and situated knowledge about particularities in a territory, its climates, its limits and its opportunities, all part of many small and big systems interweaving.

Particularities and Differences

The planet, as we know it, is changing rapidly, and yet in most parts of the planet the human species is stuck in systems based on de-territorialized activities detached from the reality or the whole narrative of things, consuming more and more resources than ever before at a speed damaging the biosphere. With this process, I hope to influence how we as practitioners perceive and rethink urbanization - not derived from the dichotomy of urban as the better positive opposite to the rural, but rather as a complement for its own survival. My conclusion is that the ideals of urbanity are in urgent need of metamorphing. From Many Little Hands Apiary, I learned that there is still time to compose knowledge based on what has been lost as direct consequence of the divisions between urban and rural. Therefore, I propose that transfiguration of spatial and 
environmental practices to encounter with global warming is dependent on further study of relationships lost by binary thinking, categorizations, and the division between living things. The study of apiculture and apiaries became therefor the opportunity to unlearn, learn and relearn how to compose knowledge doing an effort to adopt an Iberian bee perspective. This perspective provided students with a collective consciousness about interdependencies between living things in a particular territory and its landscapes, furthermore, learning how to best reorganize life to profit from the local conditions, limits, and resources sufficiently. In overall in the process, we discovered many commonalities between basic needs for humans and bees to survive, such as temperature, profiting from the position of the sun, protection from cold winds and the fundamental importance of shelters. Many of these thoughts laid the foundation for artistic processes that the students proposed later in the course resulting in many interesting projects considering rural activities as part of their spatial explorations. Together we reflected on the fact that humans have lived in many ways through its short history on the planet, but it is only during this last two hundred years that we have chosen a direction towards densification into growing urban regions. Model copied all around the world in monolithic manner, today being confirmed as a massive consumer of energy and material flows (PNAS May 12, 2015 112 (19) 5985-5990; first published April 27, 2015). Is it just a coincidence that this direction also happened during a proposed geological epoch of significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change, as described in encyclopedias. Perhaps it’s time now to work with particularities and differences – particularities in the sense of making efforts to search for the specifics in real territories of existence rather than ideological concepts and differences in the sense allowing perspectives to emerge in the differences to manifest ideas that put existence in relations dependencies.

Many Little Hands Apiary Cangas de Onis, Spain

With Many Little Hands Apiary, the objective is to exemplify how I put what could be referred to as metamorphosing process into practice. In this research activity I took the role as both a professional as Inland member, artistic researcher, and teacher to explore a series of perspectives with students and manifest relational rather than linear ideas about living together with Iberian bees in Inland village, territory situated in a depopulated area of Asturias in Cangas De Onis, Spain. The objective with combining my roles was to have a broader dialogue with future architects about my artistic research and have their input on transfiguration of spatial and environmental artistic practices to encounter with global warming. The building workshop was therefore planned so that it would become visible for students how I reposition myself in-between roles as part of laying out a strategy for a collaborative artistic process where I argue that three components are equally important; professional knowledge that offers basic tools to make things visible, artistic research that offers the experimental approach to manifest ideas and a pedagogical point of view that looks at the artistic process as a series of learning and sharing situations. For the students the building workshop was a starting point before embarking on a larger journey exploring a metamorphosing process of unlearning, learning, and relearning the discipline. Back in the university they were given the opportunity to formulate their own projects based on the artistic process, methods and over all impressions collected during the experience.

 

The building workshop took place in the Inland village in Asturias, Spain. I prepared the building workshop based on the design of a construction system that could strategically allow reconfigurations as we learn about mutual beneficial territorialized social and ecological conditions between visitors, beekeepers, and Iberian bees. This meant that time was not taking from the students to design technical aspects of the construction and instead emphasize the process of collecting stories from the territory on vernacular knowledge, art, and local architecture together with animal and cultural studies, posthuman theory, social sciences, and agroecology. The choice to build an apiary in the Inland Village emerge from building a relationship with Colombian immigrants with an expertise background as beekeepers. Because of socio-political reasons many Latin Americans are displaced from rural territories and forced to migrate in search for work in Spain or urban regions in South America. Being immigrants with temporary permissions to stay they become easy victims of exploitation in occasional under paid jobs. In opposition to this displacement from rural areas globally, we took the opportunity to give these bee.keeping experts sovereignty in a rural practice part of their identity that they have fiercely been detached from. We collected their stories and others and began composing knowledge to experiment with the configuration of the apiary constructions as a public space in the rural. The translation of knowledge evolved into a narrative that manifest apicultural activities to imagine scenarios for a contemporary rural resilient ecology in terms of rural economy through cultural activities and contributions by our companions the bees.


The project was realized with the art´s collective Inland - led by artist Fernando Garcia Dory, biologists, beekeepers and apiculture experts and Konstfack spatial design students. The result is a process that host an apiary, home for beehives and offers the public a spatial experience of remediation of the trauma caused by melissophobia, fear of bees. Metaphor to reflect on the ongoing trauma of the climate crisis caused by human activities leading not only to rapid decrease of biodiversity, Iberian bees amongst them, but also force displacement of human beings from rural territories causing cultural, social, and ecological disrupter. We investigated how architecture can operate as an interface between apiculture and bees, at the same time offering the public ways to reconnect to the rural learning about ancient lost relations between humans and pollinators, relearning how we can live together with other species in kinship relation of mutual dependency.

 

The final design of the apiary architecture is based on limitations of resources assorted and reused, first studied through a digital inventory with analogue and digital models and then combined with traditional building techniques. The spatial solutions and choice of location were continuously transfigured in dialogue with apiculture experts reorganizing, adapting, and repositioning the construction to embrace the best local conditions for bees and relation between humans and bees and other species. I hope that the apiary architecture can operate as a centerpiece for the village, a point of reference for the community just like the abandoned chapel ones was.

Stable for the Flock Casa de Campo in Madrid, Spain

This research activity consisted in composing knowledges to host the sheep – locating food cycles and rural ecologies as part of urban ecologies to demonstrate that urban living environments can and do consist of more than human worlds and are often prime sites for human and nonhuman ecologies (S Hinchliffe, M B Kearns, M Degen, S Whitmore 2003). The process consisted in experimenting with art, design, and architecture to propose a public space where human and nonhuman worlds are relational in an urban setting and propose politics for urban wilds. The Stable for The Flock project emerged building relationships to a cooperative of shepherds active on a mountain region surrounding the north side of Madrid. To compose knowledge I collected stories learning about the mutual beneficial relations between sheep flocks and shepherds depends on profiting from the best possible relational conditions for pasturing by relocating together between territories as seasons change. In the summer and autumn, the shepherds spend time with the flock in the mountain where the temperature is lower, and the pasture remains green. While in the winter and spring when the mountains fill with snow and it’s too cold, shepherds walk down to the valleys with the sheep flock where is now better conditions for grazing and give birth during the spring.

 

Today, regenerative rural historical cropping systems involving grazing in the outskirts of Madrid has been replaced by machines. Besides this being very fossil fuel dependent, it leads in the long term to the landscape’s loss of its own sovereignty. Meaning that that its soil becomes dependent on detached systems of sustainment such as irrigation and fertilizer, rather than maintaining a healthy resilience ecology based on relationships with species grazing and depositing nutrient rich manure on the land that provided their feed. The result are natural nutrient ecologies broken into linear systems requiring additional high costs for synthetic fertilizers and high amount of water resources for maintenance. To create an oppositional narrative to such anthropocentric trajectory together with Inland I formed a multidisciplinary seminar and applied building workshop, composing knowledge together with shepherds and Madrid Municipality, to think and build a hosting system for a flock of sheep in Casa de Campo is a public park in Madrid which is the biggest in Europe. In this project I took on the role as an architects, researcher, and workshop leader to design a building system that introduces broad public participation and resilient economical modularity to the artistic process.

 

The stable follows a series of parameters conditioned by temporality, economy, usability adaptation, scalability, and mobility. The design offers a shelter for the sheep’s when they graze in the park from wintertime to spring and give birth in late winter and early spring, before shepherded to spend the summer and autumn grazing in the mountains. The environment is a shared space of educational relational encounter between humans, sheep, and shepherds. It operates as a place to host workshops with school children, artists, surrounding communities, visitors, and the Inland school of shepherds. During the summer and autumn, it becomes a space for diverse cultural events managed by Inland together with shepherds, surrounding communities and the municipality. To transfigure the course of maintenance for this amount of grass fields this ongoing artistic process brings 300 sheep and shepherds turning the grass into pastures, to improve soils and prevent fires. Simultaneously becoming an opportunity for the citizens, of all ages, to discover rural lost relationships in urban areas to sheep’s, pastoralism and grazing as well as soil and pasture systems of ecology.


Nature and Wilderness

Throughout the short history of urban centralization into cities nature and wilderness has been treated as a place to fear, romanticize, shape, conquer, or lament. This posture has of course a longer history in a world to often imagined by western culture and today most cultures as to be acted upon rather than acted from within (Ingold, 2000). With the ideas of modernity, cities, and mega cities I argue that we have accentuated this agenda into becoming a cultural and political established division which is toxic and influence among many activities centralized to cities, also art, design, and architectural practices. This research activity is an effort to disrupt this division and challenge boundary ideas that imagine nature and wilderness as distant land detached from human condition. With our common effort we wanted to demonstrate that urban areas are not only dependent to the nature and wilderness in distant lands, but also resistless of its self-image territories of nature and wilderness acted from within.

 
The most important effort with this work was to investigate how art, design and architectural practices can take-off in a direction that influence political science and decision making to pursue things in ways that do not divide human from the nonhuman but rather introduce values of mutual beneficial relationships. With the final construction and activities derived from this action I learned, that if instead of dividing, artistic processes can accentuate relational systems of ecology in nature and wilderness, also in urban territories. Trajectory giving rise to more beautiful places and landscapes operating as communal spaces of mutual relationships between humans and nonhuman, fostering biodiversity also in the cities.  

Ecologies of Formgiving Lögdeälven River in Västerbotten, Sweden

Over the years it has become important for me to not only transfigure but also situate my practice to a personal level of inhabitation with real territories of existence. This means considering that a process of metamorphosing and transfiguration of my practice, also requires that I act from within in the territories where I live. Since I spend most of my time living in the region of Västerbotten I began the process of searching for project collaborations and opportunities to pursue practice-based research activities in rural areas of the region. So, I began the process of inhabitation on these territories choosing to collect stories about the different rivers of the region. Through the stories I began learning about the rivers social and ecological enormous impact, both on the character of the landscape and the amount of biodiversity it provides. These riverbanks are still evolving continuously transforming as the land mass is still raising up from the pressure of the last ice age giving form to beautiful landscapes and home for a series of ecological systems fostering the perfect conditions for many species inhabiting territories along its path. The stories also revealed that these rivers are witness to the last two hundred years of anthropogenic behavior, becoming victims of non-beneficial relationships with humans, based on activities that profit from these landscapes to exploit resources in linear systems such as deforestation for industrial wood production and water dams for energy. I knew that in such troublesome relationships there must also exist oppositional narrative to such trajectories. After meeting with a group of people leading an association committed to fishing in Lögdeälven, a forest river. I learned that this river was one of the few rivers in Sweden where plans to build a hydro power electric dam was prevented thanks to activists in the seventies that were now active in this association. When the river was saved from a dam, a system was organized to share how to protect the river for sustainable fishing divided into different fishing care-giving areas managed by non-profit associations. In these conversations I also learned of an ongoing collaboration between different associations working to restore the river to its origin known as the Re-Born project.

 

Even if the river had been saved from a hydro power electric dam it already had an older history from anthropocentric negative impact causing damages on the ecologies and loss biodiversity. The Swedish transit to industrialization was dependent on timber resources from Norrland (geographical north area covering almost half of Sweden). This was a time before trains and trucks and timber for industrial production was wagon downstream also known as timber floating. For maximum effectiveness, rivers were manipulated from any natural obstacles such as boulders and fallen trees but also steering the floating movements with the help of concrete and stone walls causing a negative impact on the ecologies downstream. In conversation with biologists involved in Re-Born in the restoration I learned that since rivers have low primary production, its systems are dependent on terrestrially derived organic matter that falls into the stream channel, so called allochthonous material. Organic as well as fine particulate inorganic material is trapped by boulders and large wood, often whole trees, that has fallen into the channel. The organic material is decomposed and eaten by shredding insects, which in turn become food for other organisms such as dragonflies and fish. The calmer areas behind the large wood and boulders serve as resting habitat for small animals and fish. In rivers that have been cleared for timber floating, boulders and large wood are rare. Without obstacles in the channel, the water flows quickly, and a large part of the organic and inorganic matter is washed downstream to nearest lake or out into the sea. When food at the bottom of the food web disappears from the system, biodiversity can be negatively affected. Therefore, as part of the work of river restoration, large boulders and trees are reintroduced to the water. This results in a more varied aquatic environment, which leads to less erosion and reduced loss of organic matter.

 

After spending quite some time among communities along the river I  also learned that these oppositional narratives also gave rise to conflicts. The communities along the river are part of an identity rooted in previous generations that worked with timber floating. For them the restoration of the river is seen as a threat to a more anthropocentric narrative based on the industrial identity that over time became associated with the river.  This narrative contains everything from timber floating to mill town communities profiting from the river historically to generate the economic growth that came along with industrialization, but also today as heritage from an industrial path. I realized that this conflict meant that there is a need for ecological mediation as well as cultural negotiation that transverse path and present. I realized that this conflict was an interesting starting point for research activities that explores relational interfaces between different narratives colliding such as the cultural transition and the conflict between natural processes of river systems and conscious profound structural constructions of linear systems forced on top of the river. In a sense what is happening on a planetary level plays out in the same way in this scale and that an effort to make installations along the river that remind us of the negotiations and transitions we need to take and become point of references that inspire to remediation with nature.

 

Today this an ongoing effort to explore oppositional narratives that foster mutual relationships between the public spaces along the Lögdeälven river and biodiversity remediating at the same time with its geo-technological path. I got engage in the restoration project Re-Born of the river and began forming a collaboration between associations engaged in the river, Nordmaling Municipality and Kulturföreningen Huset which I am an active member of. KF-Huset is a cultural non-profit association inhabiting a hundred-year-old abandoned school building of a depopulated village right by the Lögdeälven river in the town of Nordmaling, south of Umeå. KF-Huset operates as a platform for cultural productions that explore rural narratives through a film making academy, cultural events, and artistic residencies.  I began this research activity spending time with the different associations and with the river following its hiking trail. The design process is organized around communal activities along the river. This includes field studies, workshops, seminars, courses, and exhibitions in KF-Huset. The formats that are unfolding from this research activities address the challenge of how fields and disciplines can work cross sectoral in rewilding efforts for environmental restoration. The workshops are organized around an interdisciplinary team based on three dimensions - the scientific, the historical and the artistic. In collaboration with artist Luis Berríos-Negrón we put together a team of researchers, Lina Polvi Sjöberg, biologist already involved in Re-Born and Sabine Höller, historian of modern science and technology. Together we will host a first workshop that involves art students and the communities in May 2022. The objective in the long term is to gather founding to make public art interventions based on the concept of communal spaces for activities of mutual benefits between species, ecologies, and geo-technologies.

Confederacy of Villages Forest Kitchen Ecologies

Kf-Huset in Klöse, Sweden  Inland Village in Cangas De Onis, Spain - Casa delle Agriculture in Castiglione D´Otranto, Italy - Grizedale Art in England - Another Art Village, Armenia https://confederacyofvillages.org/

The Confederacy of Villages is an international exchange network that connects five socially engaged art initiatives operating in rural communities across Europe through a program of artistic residencies and professional exchanges that develop innovative concepts for creative problem-solving and collaborative working outside urban centers. Working with art practitioners and craftspeople, the Confederacy’s program of conjoined skill and knowledge sharing will collaborate with rural communities to develop each village’s economic and creative autonomy, enhancing existing activity with solutions to local needs. Through a series of workshops, seminars, and events, this will be an opportunity to understand how rural communities can remain sustainable and engaging places in which to live, work and visit. The project’s resulting user manual will propose a new anchored framework for how art can better engage with and support rural communities.

 

Motivated by a detected need for new practical mechanisms which better promote cooperation across Europe’s peripheral regions, the Confederacy will support the circulation of people and skills to nurture a model of mutual care and solidarity. It will reactivate vernacular economies in areas which have proven vulnerable to recent socio-economic transformations, attracting young professionals and entrepreneurship, while producing new imaginaries about forms of life outside urban centers that will empower rural communities.Our strategy will improve the capacity of cultural agents actively engaging with the rural, providing audiences and creative professionals alike with the tools and resources for them to initiate autonomous actions. Mobilizing artists and fostering professional development, the Confederacy will encourage similar initiatives to develop through its support network, creating new avenues of cooperation with like-minded organizations and professionals that will expand the reach and scope of rural arts across Europe.

 

As part of my artistic research, I participated in formulating the project EU founding application which was chosen for founding in April 2020 and is now put into action through several activities in the participating villages starting 2021. As part of this project, I will hold as a member of KF-Huset a series of research activities that explores forest kitchen ecologies. For the project I form a collaboration between KF Huset, Ledusjö Timmerhus (wood craft practitioner), Cov (Cofederacy of Villages) artists, architects, biologists, chefs and a local cultivation initiative and young people from the area. The purpose is to explore old traditions for cooking based on collecting stories in the form of ingredients that can be picked directly from the forest and the Lögdeälven river. We will then design a public outdoor kitchen in KF-Huset for social interaction and communal cooking exploring collaboration, seasonal storage, smokehouse, wood stove and compost systems. The goal of the project is to develop a communal public living environment that functions as a classroom that uses culinary experiences to rediscover and reconnect with forgotten relationships to the forest and the river's ecology. The objective with this research activity is to investigate infrastructures for KF-Huset that facilitates artistic processes that make the effort to discover alternative ways of relating to the forest as an economic resource  beyond the more conventional wood industry of linear systems that leads to deforestation transformed into tree plantation landscapes today accommodating about 85% of the Swedish forests.


Centerpieces and Companions Conclusion

For anyone who has experienced forced displacement to far away territories as immigrants the feeling of a place of uncertainty might be familiar. At least is what I felt as a six-year-old child and long after following the path of my parents when they were forced to migrate from Chile to Sweden. Still today I think every day of those feelings I took for granted that was suddenly taken away from me. Like the beautiful sun rising every morning behind the monumentality of the Andes by the Atacama Desert coast, its earthly colored tones, making place to the remote small town Tocopilla with its continuoing sound of the Pacific Ocean hitting its rocky coast, and every evening observing the sun towards the never-ending horizon of the Pacific Ocean. Back then and long after they have been my companions amongst many, but above my centerpieces of belonging with the planet. Today I can reflect on how the penurious landscapes of extremes in the north of Sweden and its rivers give me the same feeling of belonging just like many other territories that crossed my path. Still, finding that sense of belonging again never happened without taking the effort to really get to know places working hard on becoming a good companion with its territory, learning, and adapting to its conditions, landscapes, species, climates, and speeds. It became for me the only way to fill that gap derived from growing up in a place of uncertainty. Therefore, I would like to start my conclusion arguing that we haft to collaborate making a common effort to change trajectory, or else everything we take for granted will fade away in front of our eyes as we all will be forced to migrate to a place of uncertainty.


The origin to this project derived from the realization of the fact that my education and discipline has its roots on a western philosophy and world view that is operating beyond the global environmental limits. I felt the urgency of stepping out from the comfort zone and set out on a kind of metamorphosing and de-colonialization journey, changing trajectory, expanding, and transforming my personal and professional relationship with the world, both socially, culturally, and philosophically. My journey started with a thought from Ernesto de Martini’s book, the end of the world – in which he writes about territorial anxiety - topic that the anthropologist Vito Teti uses to describe what he refers to as “the fear of losing the centerpiece” - the point of reference, shared by individuals in traditional societies. In the era of modernity, Vito describes the individual as completely free of nostalgia, a kind of settler who lives permanently in non-places, a cosmopolitan without roots or sense of belonging.


This became a starting point for my research as I came to realize that I was exactly this settler, de-territorialized, commodified and lost in the philosophical cartesian idea of humans as masters and possessors of nature rather than belonging to nature, a toxic posture contributing to global warming as we witness it. I understood in the early stages of this research project that my ways of teaching, as well as my discipline and the western model overall is in urgent need of cultural transformation that requires new points of references. This is how I encountered with critical theory that followed like friendships that transfigured my posture such as Ingold, Spinoza, Guattari, Haraway, Braidotti, to name a few. Still, the most important influences during the research activities have been how I have evolved by situating aspects of the theories in real hands-on efforts together with colleagues from different academic fields, communities, students, and experts from non-academic fields such as beekeepers, shepherds, farmers, craftsmen, and activists.

 

My conclusion from this ongoing journey is that we haft to take the risk to transverse with our respective disciplines to encounter with global warming. This became my method to embark on a metamorphic journey of becoming kinship companions culturally and philosophically with the world, rather than settlers on top of the world. The research activities I present are efforts to embody how these journeys feel - taking the small steps of intermediate how to better co-exist with worlds. With this approach I have collected stories to advance knowledge and replace narratives. Giving form to alternative communal spaces that become centerpieces – what I would refer to as monuments of companions remediating kinship relationships with one and other, with the world and with worlds. It is clear from what we are witnessing that there is a new generation with no fear of losing the points of references of modernity, colonialism, and oppression – but rather demanding centerpieces of de-colonization and accountable transformation. Therefore, an important question to continue with as result of this artistic research is how art, design and architectural disciplines can contribute to this transformation with responsibility-taking - accountable actions - simultaneously rediscovering the discipline as a process of becoming better companions. This include taking better care on what kind of projects we put our common efforts and becoming more conscious on the activities these projects support. Even if the works that I present are just at the beginning of something with perhaps no end, the goal at the end is not to end, but to continue metamorphosing to the rhythm of real territories of existence, bringing artistic processes with me to unlearn, learn and relearn.

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